Reflections on Hope as a Category of Social and Psychological Analysis

Excerpt From Essay

"In the few pages of the doctoral dissertation on sin and expiation that he man- aged to complete before his death in World War I, Emile Durkheim's student Robert Hertz (1988) struggledwith the methodological and conceptual problems of his project. Like Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, he wanted to delineate for comparative study a set of categories that were prevalent in European thought and of universal pretension. Were these categories in fact universal? Or were they the product of a particular level of social development? How could the two positions, both of which were more or less held by the Durkheimians, be reconciled? An evolutionary model, or rather orientation, offered a way out: it was, in fact, a cover story for what could not be reconciled on either conceptual or methodological grounds.1 How could one study, for example, the nature of expiation in societies so different from 20th-century France that the very category was in question? How could a primordial notion of expiation, or sin, be identified? If it were identified, would this not suggest that there were, as Immanuel Kant had assumed, innate categories of the mind resistant to so- cial, or contingent, determination? Or were there universal features of social organization that were reflected in such categories? What would these features be?"

"Reflections on Hope as a Category of Social and Psychological Analysis," Vincent Crapanzano (3).

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